Many organizations suffer from a problem they often don’t even realize they have — a complete lack of organization in how duties are separated between the different entities in the production process. Cellular manufacturing attempts to resolve that issue by splitting your team up into workcells, each with a specific discrete purpose. This can allow you to be much more efficient in how tasks are allocated to each of those workcells, and it can significantly reduce certain types of waste, such as the time it takes for your product to pass between specific stages.
Implementing workcells in most organizations can result in significant improvements in the company’s productivity, while at the same time bringing costs down to a minimum and making the whole company much more efficient. In some cases they can even be very simple and straightforward to implement – although keep in mind that this is far from the general case, and sometimes you’ll actually have to put quite a bit of work into developing a proper workcells strategy.
One of the important ideas in workcells from a lean perspective is to minimize unnecessary motion and effort. This can be realized in various physical ways, such as by putting the machines right next to each other, for example. In fact, examining your workspace from a physical point of view can lead you to some interesting discoveries about the way your processes flow, and you may even get some ideas about how those processes can be improved just from intuition alone.
Another key factor is to reduce the stress imposed on the operator of each workcell. This is often overlooked in traditional production facilities, leading to an environment in which workers perpetually feel overburdened but don’t have the opportunity to express their concerns. When working with workcells, such issues can be localized and brought to a minimum much more quickly. Of course, this assumes that you’ve been optimal in selecting how the duties in your organization are going to be split among those workcells.
Organizing Things Adequately
This is an important point when you want to ensure that workcells result in a significant improvement in the workflow of your organization. You need to make sure that each workcell has a very specific task, and that there is no unnecessary overlap between the different units in the production chain. Furthermore, you will want to put extra effort into guaranteeing that the workload is spread around as evenly as possible. Of course, sometimes this will not be that straightforward – especially when your production process works with uneven pieces in the first place. But you could also take that as an indication that you may need to revise that process itself in order to make it more suitable for a modular approach.
There are also multiple different cell designs you can use that will give you different results depending on the way your company itself works. For example, a u-shape production line can work much better for situations where a single piece may need to be evaluated by the same part of the production chain several times as it passes onwards.
This, in turn makes it important to ensure that you’re working with someone experienced enough for the implementation of workcells in your organization. You will need proper guidance by an expert who can recognize the patterns inherent to the way workcells work, and to correct you on the common mistakes that you may end up making along the way.
Workcells are an amazing way to improve the productivity of your organization, and they can lead to significant improvements in your process flow if you use them appropriately. However, they have to be implemented by someone sufficiently knowledgeable who knows how to apply the different types of workcells appropriately, and what the most suitable template for each situation is.